17 April, 2008

Affordable Tea

After the manifold pleasures of actually drinking tea, one of my aims is to find tea that I enjoy, such that I can guarantee further pleasures in future.

Often, we say that a particular tea is "nice, but better can be had for less", which applies to many commodity brands (including, but not restricted to, dear old Xizihao). In this article, I wanted to address this, by providing some indication of exactly which teas I think are better, that can be had for less.

Given that most of us are constrained to buying our tea from Internet-based vendors, we will only discuss such teas here that are commonly available worldwide. Much as I imagine most of us would adore better access to the variety and price of Mainland Chinese tea, this is hard to achieve at the moment (and Heaven knows I've tried).

Actions speak louder than words, so which inexpensive teas have I actually been moved to buy recently? (Here excluding those teas in excess of $60.)

2001 Xiaguan "Baoyan" (brick)
2005 Dehong "Purple Leaf" (brick)
2006 Changtai "Taipei Expo"
2006 Haiwan "Mengpasha Organic"
2007 6FTM "Yesheng Banzhang"
2007 Xiaguan "FT#4"
2007 Xizihao "8582"
2007 Yibang Chamasi "Gedebao"

On the way:
1998 Menghai "Peacock" (toucha)
2006 Liming "Yiwu Qiaomu Shengtai" (tuocha)
2007 Banzhang Maocha
2007 Hailanghao "Bulang"

Now, over to you. Do please share with us what you've bought, perhaps up to around the $60 mark.


Tuo Cha Tea said...

Good bargains are (at least as I see them)
2002 CNNP Special Order 8582 (HouDe $52)
2006 Tea Expo Memorial "Hun Tie" Xiao (HouDe $14.50 for 100g minibeeng)
2003 XiaGuan Te Ji Iron Beeng (Yunnan Sourcing, restocked $48)

Salsero said...

A group of us that frequent Adagio's TeaChat forum are banding together to hunt systematically for tasty bargains in puerh ... well, to drink a lot of cheap puerh and have a good time anyway!

We are starting by rooting through some samplers that puerhshop.com (in exotic Indianapolis, Indiana, USA) just put out in response to marketing guru MarshalN's suggestion (never a man to get scalped if he can help it).

Though I believe TeaChat is not a forum you normal visit, you may find the progress interesting at least for its comedic value as we blunder our way along.


Wes Crosswhite said...

2 young shengs:
2003 Keyixing Yiwu
2005 Ming-Yuan Hao Yiwu
2005 Chunming Highland Spring tips (more like a white puerh)

3 Shu:
2006 Golden Melon Tribute Tuocha (I paid $3/piece from Puerhshop)
2006 Menghai Yue Chen Yue Xiang Pu-erh Tea Brick (This one is low-quality, but enjoyable crisp flavors. $4/piece - Puerhshop)
Rishi's Maiden shu (Over-priced, but packs a hefty malt taste)

The TeaChat tasting is centered around this idea. Finding good, affordable teas statewide isn't so easy, but it can be made fun.

Hobbes said...

Dear TA,

Good picks, that little one is so innocent-looking, but really very nice.

Dear Salsero,

I had NO idea that TeaChat was a real forum; I assumed it was something to do with Adagio. Thanks for the link! I've been reading merrily - the search for inexpensive tea goes much faster with a cohort of tasters. :)

Dear Wes,

Thanks for the recommendations - I see the Keyixing there, so I'll have to try it again. :)

I'll keep my eyes open for some 2005 Mingyuan, too.

Toodlepip all, and thanks again,


Proinsias said...

"After the manifold pleasures of actually drinking tea, one of my aims is to find tea that I enjoy, such that I can guarantee further pleasures in future."

I occasionally wonder if my tastes change, will my stocks be a reminder of how much better tea I could be drinking?

If I had stocked up on red tea I loved last year I would be a little disappointed that I would have to drink most of it before I could justify exploring some of the really wonderful red tea I've had over the past year. I suppose this is alleviated a little with buying pu-erh as you can always throw it in a dark corner a tell oneself it will probably be fantastic one day.

I don't think I'm quite up to recommending young sheng but in the price range the 1990 Menghai area brick from Stéphane can't really be faulted, how much it will improve with age may be debatable.

Anonymous said...

Dear Hobbes,

Occasionally, you classify a tea as being "division two". Do you think it is helpful to attach this classification tag to the teas on your list knowing or without knowing the extent of change to better/worse with age?

I'm tasting the 2007 Spring Xizhi Hao "Xue Shan Chuen Lu" and it's of the same caliber as the "Pu Zhen" and "Da Xue Shan". I have confidence that it will fall under the "division one" category, although it's currently priced under $60 at Houde, but is really over the $60 mark after weight conversion.

Other good "beeng-for-the-buck" teas I have are:
2004 Jing Mai Millenial Stone-Pressed (YS)
2007 Menghai 7532 (YS)
2006 Fengqing Jinxiu (puerhshop)


Hobbes said...

Dear Proinsias,

A point well-made, I know the feeling. I have large collections, just as you say, of hongcha from a few years ago which I don't enjoy as much now. That said, my original shengpu purchases are continuing to enthrall - even the cheap ones. :)

Thanks for the recommendation of the 1990s brick!

Dear Anon,

"Division two" - you're right, a tea could go on to become all sorts of things. That said, a tea with tons going on in the cup has a good chance of retaining character, I think. Conversely, a cheaper, thinner, less "chunky" tea will age in the way with which we're familiar, but could miss some undertones, some complexity - the 2001 Xiaguan "Baoyan" is a good example.

That's my real meaning of "division two" - my best guess at the difference between solid, packed-full tea and a thinner, inexpensive affair.

I've not tried the Xue Shan Chuen Lu, thanks for the note!

Actually, I don't think I've tried any of the the three that you recommended, so I'll chase them up, too. :)

Thanks both, and toodlepip,


Hobbes said...

P.s. Mike, I loved the attachment comment! I'll continue via e-mail. I think you're right. :)

Jamus said...

I'm newer to the world of pu-erh and haven't really jumped into the ripes or anything older than 1998. Mostly, I stick to raw pu-erh that is from the last 5 years, but will branch out to new things eventually.

For me, there are a few I can't put down right now.

2006 SFTM Yi Wu Millenial Tea Tree. One I've heard "Can get better for less" numerous times, but this one has won me over. Probably my favourite everyday drinker, and usually the one I introduce to my friends first (bought it for $27, but since the 08's have come out, this went upto $32)

2007 Guoyan Dragon of Bu Lang

2005 Dehong Purple Leaf brick (yum is all I can say. Goes strong for several brews. ABSOLUTELY NO BITTERNESS!)

2008 (801) Menghai (the first 08 cake I've tried and it was very good. It was mostly sweet but also had a little bitterness, but in a very good way...if that makes sense. The leaves had a sweet aroma to them. I'm tempted to buy a tong of these from Scott at YSLLC)

Also, I've had so much smooth pu-erh lately, that I've been actually looking for something with a little more edge. A friend and I have been hunting down some of the smokier tuochas just to mix things up a bit. Sometimes it's fun to take a whiff of some pu-erh that just knocks you off your feet. ^__^

Hobbes said...

Dear Jamus,

Thanks for the recommendations - some of those I love already, some of them I will now try and hunt out!



Jamus said...

Not sure if you saw it or not yet, but Scott at YSLLC just got in the 2008 Dehong Purple bricks...he had 460 of them to begin with, and when I ordered mine (three or four days after he received them), he had about 100 of them left. Just thought I'd pass that along, as the 2005 is one of my favourites and I can't wait for these to age a couple years as well.

Hobbes said...

Dear Jamus,

Thanks so much for the notification - I've just added a few to my current YS order. :)

I look forward to comparing notes with you on it.